There will be many different nationalities on show when Wolves welcome Liverpool to Molineux on Monday night, including, on both teams, the boys from Brazil.
Keeper Alisson Becker, midfielder Fabinho and striker Roberto Firmino will be aiming to provide the Samba swagger for the Reds, with Willian Jose, in the absence of the injured Fernando Marcel, flying the Brazilian flag for Wolves.
But Jose and Marcal are by no means the first Brazilian stars to have graced the Wolves team during the club’s illustrious history.
The first to make a senior appearance for the club – and score – was Leo Bonatini, a few years after goalkeeper Adriano Basso had spent a short time with Wolves in which he didn’t feature in the first team.
However, the first Brazilian ever to sign for Wolves? And also the very first signing of the Mick McCarthy reign all the way back in the summer of 2006? Well that was Gui Finkler, a midfielder with every bit of skill and flair as you might expect from the sacred green and yellow.
It might be a lazy stereotype to suggest that all skilful Brazilian midfielders are adept at striking free kicks from outside the box. Actually, maybe it isn’t.
Finkler certainly fitted that particular bill, announcing himself onto the scene one Friday night at Hednesford’s Keys Park when calmly popping the ball into the top corner from a set piece about 25 yards out.
“There is a little story about that,” he begins.
“I think it was my first friendly for Wolves, and I wasn’t playing my best game.
“I was a bit confused really, trying to get used to playing in lines because we didn’t play that way in Brazil.
“Then we got a free kick in a good position, and no one was going towards the ball to take it.
“My English was really bad at that time, I hardly had any, but I went to the ball and tried to tell Seyi Olofinjana – who was always really helpful to me – that I wanted to take it.
“He understood me, said yes, and so I took it and I scored.
“And right away from there, I felt better, and my confidence was higher.
“It just felt like nobody wanted to take that free kick, but I did, and scoring it made a big difference to me.
“I got two goals in the game in the end, and felt really confident.
“I can still remember that free kick like it was yesterday.”
Wolves at that stage were under the caretaker stewardship of Stuart Gray with Glenn Hoddle having not long departed and McCarthy yet to arrive.
It was a very good night for Finkler, who not only scored twice but set up Leon Clarke in Wolves’ 4-0 win, also receiving a standing ovation from the watching Sir Jack Hayward when leaving the pitch after being substituted.
Barely a fortnight later, he had put pen to paper on a year-long loan deal, and his European adventure was off and running.
Growing up in Brazil, like so many youngsters, Finkler wanted to become a footballer.
Football is in the blood for so many who hail from the largest country in South America, and it was also in the genes for this aspiring young talent, growing up in the city of Caxias do Sul in the mountainous Serra Gaucha region to the South of the country.
“I think every single kid in Brazil grows up wanting to be a soccer player, and I was no different,” he explains.
“My Dad used to play professionally, my brother would play but not quite professionally, and I used to watch them all the time.
“Football was my passion from Day One.”
And move over Maximilian Kilman. There is another Futsal player in town!
That was how Finkler first started playing the game, the indoor version, at five years of age, before graduating to football at around 14.
He was playing in the Brazilian first division with Juventude, when opportunity knocked, and he proved one of those famous motivational adages that are passed on to many a young player.
“The way I got my move to Wolves is one of those things that I always say to the kids,” Finkler, now 35, explains.
“’Whatever you do, give 100 per cent because you never know who is watching.
“For me it was that day, because some scouts came to watch a player from the other team who Wolves were interested in.
“I was in a good day that day, and so the scouts decided to move for me instead of the other player.
“The opportunity came along, and it is lucky for me that it did, and that is the story I always tell everyone.”
Finkler and compatriot Jay Soares were included in the touring party for Wolves’ a pre-season training camp in Spain, which, with Glenn Hoddle having recently departed, was led by caretaker boss Stuart Gray.
“Having had the offer to go to England for a trial, I said yes straightaway,” Finkler recalls.
“I knew how great soccer is in England, and I knew how big a club Wolves is as well.
“I was happy but at the same time it was a big move, because back in 2006 Europe felt a very long way from Brazil.
“These days, well before the pandemic came along, it was much easier to move around, but at the time it was a major trip and I had never been to Europe before.
“But it wasn’t a difficult decision.
“I was really happy to be going overseas to play soccer, it wasn’t a job for me, it was something I really wanted to do.”
After impressing during the training camp, and on that night at Hednesford, the season-long loan was sealed for Finkler to become McCarthy’s first Wolves signing.
And that came despite some late interest from Reading, complete with Messrs Hahnemann, Hunt, Doyle and Ingimarsson, who were heading into the Premier League.
“I had done well in that pre-season, and my agent told me that Reading had seen me play and had made an offer,” he reveals.
“It was the Premier League, but I chatted with my agent and we decided that Wolves had really looked after me and given me everything that I needed during the trial period.
“It was already a big step, to go to England and into the Championship, and I was only 20 and didn’t know what to expect even though I was very excited.
“So we decided to stick with Wolves and see how it went in the Championship and aim to make progress from there.”
Sadly though, for Finkler, those chances never really came.
McCarthy’s arrival to stabilise and develop such a depleted squad was perhaps founded more on a tried and trusted approach, a traditional 4-4-2 system, and the muck and nettles of a Championship rebuilding job was probably not suited to a young and creative Brazilian out to make his first mark in English football.
It was always a fairly low risk signing for Wolves, a season-long loan with a £100,000 fee to make it permanent at any time, and, when things didn’t work out, Finkler left in the January to head across Europe and join Belgian side Mouscron.
As a ‘number ten’ suited to playing ahead of two central midfielders and in behind a front three, Wolves in the Championship proved a step too far for Finkler to make the grade, but he also acknowledges that his age, and lack of English, added to the challenge.
“It was frustrating for me as I didn’t really have an opportunity, but that’s football, these things can happen,” he says.
“I was young, and shy, and at the time my English wasn’t great at all.
“Sometimes I struggled at the training ground to understand the training and what the coach wanted, and I really think if I had known the language more it would have been easier.
“The club really looked after me, they gave me teachers to try and learn English, but I really was starting from zero.
“It was tough, I would go home from the training ground and that was it, and even going to the supermarket was difficult with the communication – other Brazilian people were hard to find!
“When you make a decision, like I did to go to Wolves, you never know if it is the right one or the wrong one, but I learned so much even in those few months.
“I was happy to be part of the club, a great club, the experiences I had 100 per cent helped me later in my career.
“Getting time on the pitch would have made me more happy of course, but that is football, and I learned a lot even from my time on the training ground.
“Every player wants to be playing at the weekend, and not just going into the training ground, but I always try to take the positives from whatever I do.
“I played in the reserves, and Terry Connor the coach at the time was great, always trying to push me and telling me to do well and that I would get my chance.
“At the start it felt like I was training really well, but as time went on, and my chance didn’t come, I couldn’t really keep that going.
“I think it became clear that I wasn’t going to play, and I tried to train hard and play hard but sometimes things just don’t go how you want to.”
Right player, wrong time? It would certainly seem so, and a few years later, and with Finkler’s English reaching the excellent levels it now is, who is to say he wouldn’t have been a perfect fit pulling the strings at the head of the Wolves midfield?
As events transpired, the experiences of Wolves probably helped him later in his career when, after five years back home representing several different clubs, Finkler took on another fresh and exciting challenge.
“I had the opportunity to go and play in Australia, which was another big move for myself and my wife,” he says.
“We decided to go for it and see how things went, and it was the best decision we could ever have made.
“Things came good for us, I was really happy and had a really successful time.”
Melbourne Victory was Finkler’s Down Under destination, where he would spend five largely happy years.
Sadly in his first season, he suffered an ACL injury, to the other knee which he had suffered the same damage playing in Brazil in 2010.
It was around 11 games into the A-League season that injury struck, yet despite missing the remainder of the campaign from there onwards, Finkler still finished on top of the Victory assist charts.
“The club were also great with me, doing everything possible, and offering me the opportunity to go home to Brazil for the surgery,” Finkler explains.
“But I decided to stay in Australia for the surgery and the rehab, and in taking the positives had a lot of time to improve my English and come back stronger, mentally and psychologically.
“I got through it, and came back even better.”
Indeed, the best was certainly yet to come.
Finkler set himself a target of making it back for the first game of the 2013/14 season, and he achieved it, coming off the bench.
He went on to be the only Victory player who featured in every game of the campaign, but it was the following year where both he and the team really excelled.
Melbourne swept all before them, winning both the league and the play-offs, and then also lifted the FFA Cup the following season.
Finkler was named in the A-League PFA Team of the Season for 2014/15, having also been part of the A-League All Stars which took on a Juventus side featuring the likes of Buffon, Evra, Pirlo, Pogba and Tevez.
“We won everything that one season and it was such an exciting time for the club,” Finkler recalls.
“Melbourne hadn’t won anything for a few years and so the supporters really loved it and we were getting some big crowds.
“I will always remember it as a really great time, and would love to go back and visit the club once the pandemic is over.”
There is a well-known theory that wherever you are in the world, a Wolves connection is never too far away.
And so it was that the coach who guided Melbourne Victory to that impressive success is one who will be very well known to those of a gold and black persuasion.
Kevin Muscat made over 200 appearances for Wolves from 1997 to 2002, part of a successful career which ended up in his native Australia before graduating into coaching and management.
When asked how aware he was of Muscat’s ‘hard man’ reputation Finkler lets out a laugh.
“When I first moved to Australia he was the assistant at Victory and then he went on to be manager and in both positions he really helped me,” he says.
“He was telling me about the A-League and how to play and we talked a lot about Wolves and England.
“He was always a captain on the field and very strong and determined and what you might call a hard man both in England and Australia.
“But off the pitch he was completely different, a very different character, and he was always ready to talk to me and help me.
“I really enjoyed playing under Kevin.”
Throughout the changes posed during Finkler’s career, and turning out in three different continents, there was always one creative constant.
Those fantastic free kicks.
For Keys Park in 2006 read the AAMI Park in Melbourne towards the end of 2013, as Finkler came off the bench for Victory against Western Sydney Wanderers.
Even the opposing manager, Tony Popovic, who also had a short spell at Wolves, had to applaud the last minute strike which secured Victory a point and is one which is still talked about all these years on.
“That was when I was still coming back from injury, and I came on for the last 20 minutes,” Finkler recalls.
“It was the very last kick of the game and was a nice goal, everyone went crazy!
“I had always practiced free kicks, right from when I moved from Futsal to football.
“My Uncle had a small pitch and my Dad bought me a plastic wall so in my free time I used to go there by myself and put a target in the goal and try and hit it every time.
“I always tried to get better at free kicks and managed to score a few of them at the different clubs that I played for.”
After his successful spell in Melbourne, Finkler later moved on to spend a season with Wellington Phoenix before returning to play in Brazil with his first club Juventude and a short spell helping Lithuanian side FK Suduva successfully defend their league title.
There were more offers, particularly to return to Asia following the success in Australia, but by now Finkler decided it was the right time to hang up his boots, once and for all.
He then spent a year looking to start a new career outside of the game, but the lure of football has since dragged him back in, and he is now setting off on a new journey working with two friends as an agent/mentor to young players back in Brazil.
“I had been playing football for 27 years all in all, so it had been a very long story,” he admits.
“We had started a family, and moving around then became a much bigger decision than had it just been myself and my wife.
“I did try to work outside of football, but that felt like I was somebody else, and then a few friends asked me to get back involved.
“We now have an agency for young players where we do look to move players to clubs but the motivation is not about money but what is best for those players.
“My involvement is as someone who is going to help these players find the right way, and make the right decisions.
“I think back to my career and think I might have made some different decisions if I had someone next to me trying to help me – now I want to be that guy!
“I have gone back to the start again, learning about everything off the field, and making sure I know about all the different scenarios to help players try to make the right moves.”
Retirement from playing has also ensured more time for Finkler at home with wife Karine, four-year-old daughter Rafaela and one-year-old son, Luca.
Conditions with the pandemic in Brazil at the moment aren’t great, with lockdown in force, but, as ever, the former midfielder is just trying to make the best of it.
“The main thing I am happy about since retirement is spending weekends with my family,” Finkler confirms.
“In Australia we used to travel for three or four days for an away game and you miss out on a lot.
“I am really enjoying being able to relax and eat whatever food I want as well!
“When you are playing you are very restricted in what you can eat and drink, so it’s nice not to think too much about that even though we will still try and be healthy.”
Chatting to Finkler, there is a strong sense of a man with plenty of contentment about the career he enjoyed even if he was unable to secure the sort of success at Molineux as he produced later in his career at Australia.
He retains fond memories of his short Wolves stay, not to mention friendships, including with Cannock-based supporter Nick Jones and family who have stayed in close touch and have visited Finkler in both Brazil and Australia.
“They are really special in our lives because they really helped us when we were in England,” he says.
Finkler also keeps a very keen eye on Wolves’ progress and has done ever since he departed, even more so now with some Brazilian interest in the squad.
But on that subject there is one aspect of his move to Molineux that will never be forgotten.
“The first Brazilian player to sign for Wolves – I always have this on my mind, you know!
“When I watch Wolves play, or people ask me about them, I am very proud of this fact.
“And it can never be taken away from me!”